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Georgia's Raptor Spectacular

Tour Code: GEO02

An 8-day single-centre birdwatching holiday to the west coast of Georgia, based near Batumi, to marvel at the southbound migration of many thousands of raptors, with the opportunity also to explore the bird-rich wetlands and forests of the Caucasus.

8 days from £2295(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1995 SRS: £295


Our holiday begins with a flight to Batumi, Georgia’s second largest city. From here we will drive the short distance to our comfortable hotel in Chakvi. Batumi sits beneath a migratory bottleneck where, every autumn, vast numbers of raptors are funnelled into a narrow coastal flyway which takes them over the city and the surrounding countryside. The migration reaches a peak in late September when over 100,000 birds of prey can pass through on a single day, along with migrant waders, warblers, flycatchers, pipits and wheatears. Whilst this raptor migration will be the principle focus of our new tour, we will also explore several important birdwatching sites nearby in search of such species as Black-winged Pratincole, Broad-billed and Terek Sandpipers, Barred Warbler, Rose-coloured Starling and Red-breasted Flycatcher.

  • Stay 6 nights at Chakvi on the shores of the Black Sea/DIV>
  • Enjoy the area’s spectacular autumn raptor migration/DIV>
  • Steppe Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon & Lesser Kestrel/DIV>
  • Lesser & Greater Spotted, Steppe, Imperial, Short-toed, Booted & White-tailed Eagles/DIV>
  • Chance of Saker or Oriental Honey Buzzard, /DIV>
  • Harriers, Black Storks & Black Kites/DIV>
  • A ‘100,000-plus raptor day’ is possible/DIV>
  • Look for huge ‘kettles’ of Steppe Buzzards /DIV>
  • Led by expert naturalist guides/DIV>

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A comfortable hotel in Chakvi, all rooms with private facilities.

Outline Itinerary Download

Imagine standing on the top of a hill watching hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrating raptors drifting overhead, part of a staggering one million birds of prey which pass through a narrow 10- kilometre-wide corridor each autumn. This is the reality of visiting Batumi in late September!

Sandwiched between the vast expanse of the Black Sea to the west and the imposing Lesser Caucasus Mountains to the east, Batumi sits beneath a migratory bottleneck where, every autumn, vast numbers of raptors — journeying south to Africa from Russia — are funnelled into a narrow coastal flyway which takes them over the city and the surrounding countryside. Although this migration begins in early August, it reaches a peak in late September when over 100,000 birds of prey can pass through in a single day! The numerous flocks of Steppe Buzzards are joined by a stunning diversity of eagles, including Lesser and Greater Spotted, Steppe, Imperial, Short-toed, Booted and White-tailed. Eruptions of Red-footed Falcons, Lesser Kestrels and harriers provide an impressive supporting cast, and there is also the chance of something rarer such as a Saker or even an Oriental Honey Buzzard.

Whilst this raptor migration will be the principle focus of our new tour, we will take advantage of quieter periods to explore several important birdwatching sites nearby, most notably the Chorokhi Delta, Kolkheti Wetlands and Mtirala National Park. Here a tantalising variety of migrant waders, warblers, flycatchers, pipits and wheatears can be found, amongst them Black-winged Pratincole, Broad-billed and Terek Sandpipers, Barred Warbler, Rosecoloured Starling and Red-breasted Flycatcher.

Our holiday begins with a flight to Batumi (via Istanbul), Georgia’s second largest city. From here we will drive a short distance to our comfortable hotel in Chakvi, a small town on the shores of the Black Sea and our base for the next six nights. In common with all migration hotspots, the prevailing weather conditions will be crucial to our success and so we will keep the itinerary for the following days flexible, devoting more time to the observation points when warranted and visiting the other areas when there is less activity in the skies.

When favourable conditions ensue we will alternate our time between the two main watchpoints of Shuamta and Sakhalvasho, both of which offer a differing range of species depending on the prevailing weather. Shuamta is located on a ridge above a tiny village surrounded by forest, and is regarded as the best option for the later autumn migrants, with many eagle species preferring to take this more easterly route. It is here that we may be fortunate enough to experience a 100,000- plus raptor day, with huge ‘kettles’ of Steppe Buzzards forming above the mountains to the east, mixed with eagles, Black Storks and Black Kites. Sakhalvasho is located on a flattened hilltop and offers superb views of the surrounding landscape. Whilst this watchpoint is primarily used during the early autumn migration, it can also be very productive in late September. Red-footed Falcons, for example, are seen almost exclusively here and can be particularly numerous in some years.

When not at the watchpoints we will explore the bird-rich areas near our hotel. The most impressive of these is the Chorokhi Delta which offers a range of habitats such as reedbeds, mudflats, small pools and scrub, and serves as an important stopover for many migrant birds. At this time of the year, the variety of species present is everchanging and no two days here are ever the same. Indeed, owing to its strategic location at the southern end of the west Georgian plains, we have a good chance of seeing virtually any species that is migrating through this part of the world including, in previous years, some truly exceptional rarities! Taking to the water, we will also explore the Kolkheti wetlands by boat, crossing the Paliastomi Lake and entering the small channels that criss-cross the reedbeds and mires to the east. Alongside a wide variety of waterfowl, herons and waders we will also hope to encounter one or two of the resident White-tailed Eagles. The picturesque forest of Mtirala National Park offers yet more natural history of interest and is a must for woodpecker fans, with Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpeckers amongst the six species to be found. Whilst our principle targets here are of an avian kind, Mtirala also holds several endemic amphibians and reptiles which, if found, will be a welcome addition to our wildlife encounters! After a week filled to the brim with birds, it will be time to bid farewell to Batumi and begin our own migration home.

Pallid Harrier (Wim Bovens)Black Kite (Wim Bovens)Black Stork and Black Kite (Wim Bovens)Lesser Spotted Eagle (Wim Bovens)Black Kites (Wim Bovens)Booted Eagle (Wim Bovens)Short-toed Eagle (and Black Kites) (Wim Bovens)Honey Buzzard (Wim Bovens)Hoopoe (Wim Bovens)Ortolan Bunting (Wim Bovens)View from Sakhalvasho raptor watch point (Wim Bovens)View from Sakhalvasho raptor watch point (Wim Bovens)Raptors (Wim Bovens)Raptors (Wim Bovens)Red-footed Falcon (Wim Bovens)Red-footed Falcon (Wim Bovens)

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Sat 22nd September 2018 - Sat 29th September 2018

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£2295

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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1995 More info

Room sharing options: Male sharing is available More info

Visiting: Georgia

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David Phillips
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Birds

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